Archive for December, 2006

The Essential Yolanda Adams

yolanda.gifTitle: The Essential Yolanda Adams
Artist: Yolanda Adams
Label: Verity/Legacy
Catalog No.: 88697 02211 2
Date: 2006

Yolanda Adams stands as one of the first in gospel music to merge the secular and the sacred, and to break out of the traditional image of a gospel singer in her style of dress and delivery. Working to bring a gospel message to churchgoers as well as those that do not attend religious services, The Essential Yolanda Adams shows that her roots lie not only in the gospel music tradition but also in R&B. Many of the songs featured on this two CD collection are ballads that do not sound like anything you will hear coming out of the choir stand on Sunday morning.

A former school teacher and model, Adams began her recording career in 1987. Even before Kirk Franklin, she embraced the secular, not only in her delivery but also in her dress. The CD cover bears witness to this in that it looks more like something one would expect from Phyllis Hyman or Whitney Houston. When listening to the CD it is obvious that her major influences come from jazz and R&B. Adams cites Nancy Wilson and Stevie Wonder, among other big names in the aforementioned genres, as her inspiration.

At first glance it appears as though the collection does not feature any of Adams’ crossover hits or gospel-themed songs about love and loss. However, tracks six and seven on disc two are mislabeled (at least on this review copy). Where the listener should hear “Praise Your Holy Name,” they will instead find “Fragile Heart.” Buyers who are disappointed that “Open My Heart,” which made it to #10 on the R&B charts in 1999, is not contained in the compilation, will be pleased to learn that it is included on the track listed as “The Battle Is the Lord’s.” Someone new to Adams’ music would probably never notice these mistakes unless they were looking at the actual liner notes while listening to the album. Although theses errors takes away from the production quality of the CD, as these two tracks are not the only ones mislabeled, the songs that appear in their places are still representative of the power and breadth of Adams’ vocal career.

Adams, unlike many traditional gospel singers, maintains a very reserved yet powerful demeanor in most of her songs. Many of the ballads showcase Adams’ control over the powerful voice she commands. Even those songs recorded with choirs and other traditional gospel instruments, where Adams does shout and get sanctified, seem slightly reserved when compared with gospel artists like LaShun Pace or Vicki Winans. Comparable artists would include Cece Winans.

The Essential Yolanda Adams is peppered with songs that feature choirs and the traditional Sunday morning feel as well as ballads. For instance, “Thank You” features both a choir and church organ. Having witnessed and had the pleasure of performing “Even Me” with Adams in 1993 at Chicago’s Gospel Festival, it is a special treat to find it on this compilation of Adams’ corpus of work. Throughout her career Adams has striven to make gospel everyday music, instead of something reserved for religious occasion. Many of the songs picked for this compilation are a testimony to that vision.

Posted by Brandon Houston

View review December 1st, 2006

Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal

funk hymnal.gifTitle: Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Numero
Catalog No.: 010
Date: 2006


If you have ever wondered how gospel quartets like the Mighty Clouds of Joy might sound over funk bass, drums, and horns, Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal gives you a glimpse of the result. Good God! features a collection of gospel songs by pretty obscure gospel artists that were originally recorded between 1968 and 1980. The difference between these songs and most of their contemporaries is that the music, but not the message, was directly influenced by funk groups like the JB’s. Much has been written about the influence of gospel vocals on the soul music of that era, but instead Good God! takes a look at the reverse impact of secular funk arrangements on traditional gospel vocals.


The eighteen tracks included on Good God! make the project a little long; however, the number of outstanding tracks outnumber the mediocre ones. The project starts on a high note with the Preacher & the Saints’ “Jesus Rhapsody Part 1.” The song begins with a full orchestra that includes strings, harp, and brass over a funk bass and drums. Then the lead singer, reminiscent of Joe Ligon of the Mighty Clouds of Joy, pleads with the listener to follow his Godly advice and “try his remedy.” The backing quartet keeps the feel going strong over dense funk instrumental arrangements. The best tracks on Good God! are the ones that follow this formula of matching brilliant male vocals and quartets with classic funk guitar and bass. Examples include the 5 Spiritual Tones’ “Bad Situation” and the Mighty Walker Brothers’ “God Been Good to Me.”  

Unfortunately, among the standout tracks on Good God! are a couple of novelty tracks that sound like rejected songs from a gospel musical production. Voices of Conquest’s “O Yes My Lord” and LaVice & Company’s “Thoughs (sic) Were the Days” lack the soul and grit of some of the better songs on the album. Further, the combination of a lead vocalist, heavy funk instrumentals that include brass, and a full choir creates an overwhelming sound. These songs, which sound like studio recordings, pale in comparison to the passion in the Gospel Comforters’ “Jesus Will Help Me.”

All in all, Good God! introduces listeners to an obscure but important hybrid genre of traditional gospel music with funk instrumentals. Most of the tracks are great examples of the ongoing conversation between black sacred and secular musical traditions. The artistic strides of these gospel messengers continue to resonate through the secular sound of contemporary gospel artists like Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams.  


Posted by fredara mareva

View review December 1st, 2006


men of standard.gifTitle: Surrounded
Artist: Men of Standard
Label: Sony Urban Music
Catalog No: 82876 80880 2
Date: 2006

As background vocalists for John P. Kee from 1990 to 1994, the contemporary gospel group, Men of Standard, is no novel act in the contemporary gospel music industry. With the 1996 single, “Trust in God” (a remake of the Winans’ 1984 hit), from their self-entitled debut CD produced by Donald Lawrence for Malaco Records, Men of Standard became recognized as one of the groups who would forward the development of the stylistically hybrid gospel sound (a sound that fuses gospel quartet and contemporary gospel traits) introduced by the Winans a decade earlier. While creating a musical sound reminiscent of the Winans, they are no clones.

Men of Standard’s fifth and latest CD, Surrounded (produced by Warren Campbell for Sony), presents a mosaic that consists of neo-nineties overtones, hip hop, jazz, rock and reggae styles. The musical direction of Surrounded is most evident in the heartfelt ballads such as “Cover Me,” “Surrounded,” “Yours” (featuring Tye Tribbett), and “Latter Rain” (featuring Kirk Franklin), which create a more stylistically and lyrically settled feel. Unfortunately, these tracks don’t begin until track five. The previous tracks present heavily synthesized, mechanical music sounds that parallel the group’s ’90s retro-attire on the cover. The CD offers a somewhat meandering musical experience, presenting too many stylistic variations. In addition to this drawback, the recognizable sound of Men of Standard is not often apparent, which may result from the use of a producer who is known for his Mary Mary productions, which are centered on the softer, smoother voices of the female contemporary gospel group. Consequently, half of the tracks, particularly the upbeat ones, do not display the more aggressive vocal style we expect from Men of Standard.

Surrounded is an eclectic CD that reflects the musical spectrum to which Men of Standard has been exposed. However, the CD lacks a unified style and the musical sonorities that typically characterize the sound of Men Of Standard are too often obscured.

Posted by Tyron Cooper

View review December 1st, 2006

Root to the Fruit

cover00_roottothefruit.jpgTitle: Root to the Fruit
Artist: Ruth Naomi Floyd
Label: Contour Records
Catalog No.: 7-9604-40930-1
Date: 2006

If three adjectives were all that were to be used to describe Ruth Naomi Floyd and her work they would be innovative, synergistic, and brilliant. Floyd combines her strong belief in Christianity and her love of jazz into one vibrant package that becomes “gospel-jazz.” Trained as a pianist and composer, Floyd is a masterful artist. This training coupled with her background—growing up in church gospel choirs—explains the extraordinary control she capitalizes upon in her delivery. Carrying the messages of hope, love, and faith found in gospel music, layered over the smooth, melodic jazz, Floyd’s fusion is a beautiful work of self expression.

Root to the Fruit is Floyd’s fifth album release on the Contour Records label, which she also owns. The majority of songs featured on this album are either traditional African American spirituals arranged for jazz expression, or wholly composed by Floyd, with few exceptions. Floyd seeks to bring comfort and consolation to the world through her music. Placing gospel lyrics against the backdrop of jazz, her music will appeal to a varying demographic.

The spirituals selected for this album are beautifully sung with all the emotion that these songs deserve. Floyd’s arrangements of the spirituals do not harm their integrity, rather they preserve and renew their vitality. Notable tracks on Root to the Fruit include “Oh Freedom,” “Open the Door to Him,” and “Act of Contrition.” What is special about these tracks is that Floyd uses perfect diction, while remaining true to the message and the improvisation that gained jazz as well as gospel their notoriety. Not all of the songs on this album are accompanied by strings and winds. “No Hiding Place” features dramatic drumming with a definite African aesthetic. The lyrics for this song are taken from traditional gospel songs and scripture, providing an illustration of the earlier fusion that created the black musical aesthetic.

The sound quality of this album is superb. Not only are the vocals elegantly laid on each track, but those who appreciate acoustic jazz will be delighted as well. Little if anything negative can be said about this album. Hearing the gospel delivered from a different perspective that reinforces and preserves its meaning is an extraordinary experience. Floyd’s total, unfettered praise of God, combined with her love of jazz makes this an album worth listening to.

Posted by Brandon Houston

View review December 1st, 2006

Victory LIVE!

tye.gifTitle: Victory LIVE!
Artist: Tye Tribbett & G.A.
Label: Sony Urban Music/Columbia
Catalog No.: 82876 77526 2
Date: May 23, 2006

“This isn’t R&B. This isn’t Hip-Hop, this is Kingdom Music.” This inscription in the liner notes of Victory LIVE! confirms that no single genre category can encompass Tye Tribbett or his choir, Greater Anointing (G.A.). Neither can any studio, for that matter. The Camden, New Jersey native’s latest release, recorded at Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Philadelphia, proves that Tye Tribbett and G.A.’s music is meant for the stage, where the choir has been at home for ten years now.

Founded by Tribbett in 1996, G.A. is as known for ecstatic worship as much as for music. “No Way,” recorded on his 2004 debut album, Life, gave the choir its boost into both the sacred and secular mainstream. G.A. performed the simple chant on various music award shows and B.E.T. performance programs. On Victory LIVE! (also published as a DVD), Tribbett leads the choir in choreographed dance moves, and also yields to the move of the Spirit, extending songs because of the atmosphere of corporate worship.

Still, performance style alone couldn’t have made this album what it is. Always on the edge of contemporary gospel, Tribbett and G.A. manage to compile all types of musical influences in one recording. Tribbett wanted this album to reflect his idea of Kingdom Music, genre-free and genre-inclusive. “Sinking” is one song that illustrates Tribbett’s gospel roots, as well as his ability to blend cultural and musical styles. The song begins with the choir singing in the deliverance style of old Methodist hymnals. After the song’s break, Tribbett incorporates lyrics from a standard in the black church, irrespective of sect, “God’s been so good to me.” Songs like “Seated at the Right Hand of God,” and “No Other Choice,” beg to be categorized as contemporary Christian music, a classification that doesn’t represent his core audience. On the other hand, songs like “Still Have Joy” and “Everything Will Be Alright” are true to Tribbett’s Apostolic roots. Finally, the title track and highlight of the concert, “Victory,” is straight go-go (a genre developed in Washington, D.C. by the school of funk graduate Chuck Brown). Tribbett contends that this eclectic mix of music is representative of the Kingdom of Heaven. Hence, the self-proclaimed genre of “Kingdom Music” has replaced the “M.U.D.” (Music Un-Defined) designation applied by Tribbett to his debut album.

Life was reflective of some of the choir’s earlier struggles, replete with questions about Christian living in the face of adversity. After a series of trials that included the death of choir member Dr. Kenneth Riddle, G.A. has since begun to answer these questions. On Victory LIVE!, the choir stands ready to recite what they have learned: worship is the balm for all wounds.

Posted by Asha L. French

View review December 1st, 2006

I’ve Got A Right

darrell mcfadden.gifTitle: I’ve Got A Right
Artist: Darrell McFadden and The Disciples
Label: EMI Gospel
Catalog No.:
Date: 2006

While the Dixie Hummingbirds and Lee Williams and the Spiritual QC’s made moderate shifts from the exclusive use of traditional gospel quartet sonorities to the inclusion of sounds that reflect contemporary musical trends, Darrell McFadden and The Disciples represent a more radical shift toward the latter. New York native Darrell McFadden began his professional career with Willie Banks and the Messengers from Mississippi. After less than a year with the Messengers, he returned to New York and reformulated the Golden Sons, a gospel quartet group. However, realizing that the group’s members did not share his commitment to successful progress in the industry, McFadden left the group in 1992 and formed a new group in the same year: Darrell McFadden and The Disciples.

While maintaining characteristics of traditional gospel quartet music such as triadic harmonies, raspy vocals (particularly in the lead vocals), the rhythm section (bass, guitar and trap set), and internal call and response structure, I’ve Got A Right further expands the genre’s expressive boundaries by adding new instrumentation and musical vocabulary, more rhythmic movement, extended harmonies, and a broader use of technology. Paralleling the previously highlighted gospel quartets, the Disciples’ lyrical content is in keeping with the traditional gospel quartet message of spiritual redemption through Jesus Christ.

The 10-track disc presents this eleven-member group (the cover shows only 10 members) performing music written by the three core members: Darrell McFadden, Gene Peoples and Spanky Williams (T. Arrington also co-wrote “I Believe,” track 4). Beginning with the first track (“Be Ready”), it is clear that this disc is different from the usual gospel quartet project. It incorporates a higher degree of syncopation in the rhythm section, the harmonic foundation is reminiscent of the R&B group, Tony Toni Tone, and the background vocals reflect early doo-wop groups of the 1940s and ’50s. Track two (“Calling Me”) demonstrates the extremity of this group’s style with their usage of a drum machine, the talk box (popularized by the funk group Zapp in the ’80s), and a bridge section that extends the harmonic foundation and form (while the Disciples perform songs in standard verse-chorus form, they also commonly employ the 32 bar form). “Hold On” (track 6), a reinterpretation of the hymn “Hold On To God’s Unchanging Hand,” demonstrates how gospel artists frequently transform pre-existing songs into new compositions. The original hymn consists of four verses and a refrain. The Disciples only use the refrain section, and the wah-effect guitar style on this track clearly reflects the group’s funk music influence.

I’ve Got A Right illustrates an expressive cycle in gospel quartet music. It begins with the traditional gospel style, then advances to more contemporary elements in the middle section, and finally returns to more traditional gospel music styles in “Shackles” and “O How I Love Jesus/Further Along,” tracks 9 and 10 respectively. While several gospel quartets demonstrate the secular music influence in this genre, Darrell McFadden and The Disciples best illustrate the relationship between the secular and sacred aesthetic practices.

Posted by Tyron Cooper

View review December 1st, 2006

Soulful Healing

soulful healing.gifTitle: Soulful Healing
Artist: Lee Williams and The Spiritual QC’s
Label: MCG Records
Catalog No.: CD 2614
Date: 2006

Like the Dixie Hummingbirds’ Still…Keepin’ It Real, Lee Williams and the Spiritual QC’s Soulful Healing also represents a shift in the sound of gospel quartet music. The group employs various styles that reflect contemporary transformations of the genre.

Lee Williams was born and raised in Tupelo, Mississippi. While growing up, he experienced the music of local gospel quartets and other secular music genres such as the blues. His uncle, a member of the Gospel Stars, was a major influence. At the age of seven, Williams and his older brothers formed their own quartet, known as the Gospel Star Juniors. Later Williams and his brother Willie became members of the first Spiritual QC’s, formed by their uncle. In 1964, the original Spiritual QC’s disbanded and the two brothers reorganized the group, using new members.

After a couple of decades of building a regional reputation through live performances, Lee Williams and the Spiritual QC’s received their first airplay in the early ’90s when a disc jockey from Memphis, Tennessee played the group’s self-produced cassette tape. This sparked more interest in the group in the southeast, and eventually led to a record deal with MCG in 1996. Soulful Healing, the latest MCG release, is a compilation of nine previously released tracks and two new songs (“Cooling Water” and a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “When You Gonna Wake Up”). Similar to the Dixie Hummingbirds, the QC’s employ both traditional and contemporary instrumentation: organ, rhythm section (guitar, bass and drums), and synthesizers that emulate horn riffs and strings. They also adhere to the verse-chorus form; however, in “Bless Me Jesus” (track 4) they shift slightly by employing a short bridge before moving into the vamp section.

Incorporating metaphors based on lyrics that reference both the spiritual and life experiences of the black community, gospel quartets often highlight family members (particularly mamma and grandma). For example, “Cooling Water” (track 2) equates grandma’s cooling water to their spiritual renewal. Although the musical sound of the Mississippi-based QC’s is steeped in the blues tradition, they also incorporate R&B and funk elements such as horn riffs, wah-effect guitar, and low frequencies emphasizing the bass and drums, which provides the foundation for the harmonic and rhythmic drive (i.e., the groove). Most striking is the appropriation of R&B music and lyrics from the Temptations and Wilson Pickett in “Cooling Water” and “In the Midnight Hour” (track 3), respectively.

Lee Williams and the Spiritual QC’s carefully negotiate the secular and sacred traditions by superimposing biblical quotes (during his narratives) over well-known R&B and soul grooves. This five-member gospel quartet has forged a distinctive voice in the gospel music industry.

Posted by Tyron Cooper

View review December 1st, 2006

Still…Keepin’ It Real

dixiehummingbirdslastmancd.jpgTitle: Still…Keepin’ It Real: The Last Man Standing
Artist: The Dixie Hummingbirds
Label: MCG Records
Catalog No.:
Date: 2006

The Dixie Hummingbirds, formed while its four original members were in the Church of God Holiness choir in Greenville, South Carolina, began singing in the traditional quartet style in 1928. After developing a reputation in the southeast and making some personnel changes (which included the addition of lead singer Ira Tucker around 1938), they released their first recording in 1939 on the Decca label. The quartet moved to Philadelphia in 1942, where they recorded numerous sides for various independent labels such as Arco, Apollo and Okeh.

In 1952 the Hummingbirds signed with the Houston-based Peacock label where they experienced over thirty years of success in gospel music. In 1973 they received a Grammy for “Loves Me Like a Rock,” which they had originally recorded (as background vocalists) with Paul Simon. In 1978 they were acknowledged by Ebony magazine as “The World’s Greatest Gospel Group.” As a result of group member deaths and retirements over the years, only one pioneer member remains—Ira Tucker. With the addition of new and younger members (William Bright, Abraham Rice, Torrey Nettles, Willie Coleman, Cornell McKnight and Lyndon Blaines Jones), Tucker preserves the Dixie Hummingbirds’ characteristic sound, which consists of warm triadic harmonies, a rhythmic foundation provided by the bass voice, an electric guitar, and Tucker’s signature lead vocals, which illustrates both his extended vocal register and charismatic personality.

The first track (“Ezekiel Saw The Wheel”) illustrates how the Hummingbirds have preserved the early traditional quartet performance practices of the 1920s-30s by employing Negro spirituals, which are juxtaposed with new songs. The remaining nine tracks consist of a gospelized folk tune and original gospel songs, incorporating lyrics that reflect both social conditions and biblical principles (faith in God, eternal life in heaven, etc). All of the songs on this disc employ a verse-chorus form with an internal call and response between the leader and background vocalists, and each songs ends with an extended vamp.

While the Hummingbirds continue to preserve the traditional gospel quartet sound in their performances, contemporary influences are evident in the way they employ instrumentation, such as the addition of strings and horns and a full rhythm section (bass and electric guitar, piano and trap set), as well as new technologies. In “Christian’s Automobile” (track 7), the latter is used to create sound effects of car crashes and thunder. The Hummingbirds’ also incorporate the harmonic and melodic vocabulary from blues and country music, most evident in the style of the guitar and piano playing on “It Won’t Be Long.”

Still Keepin’ It Real demonstrates the various ways in which the Hummingbirds have expanded their repertoire and sound, reflecting the broadening boundaries of the gospel quartet genre. The disc also celebrates the role of Ira Tucker as the central member and leader of the Hummingbirds (his picture appears on the cover). An extensive summary of the group’s history is provided in the liner notes.

Posted by Tyron Cooper

Editor’s note: check out this interview with Jerry Zoltan, author of Great God A’Mighty – The Dixie Hummingbirds: Celebrating the Rise of Soul Gospel Music.

View review December 1st, 2006

Lucinda Moore

lucinda moore.gifTitle: Lucinda Moore
Artist: Lucinda Moore
Label: Tyscot
Catalog No.: TYSD 4150-2
Date: 2006

Most would consider Lucinda Moore a newcomer to the national ranks of gospel music. However, she has been honing her skills in ministry since the age of seventeen, when she began singing with gospel legend Tremaine Hawkins. Not only did her mentor influence her vocally, but Lucinda is grateful to Hawkins for the profound impact she had on her development as a businesswoman and professional artist. Lucinda recently released her self-titled debut album to critical acclaim. Though some might describe her as an overnight success, she explains that her current project is a culmination of twelve years of hard work! In Lucinda’s mind, she has been preparing for this moment her entire life. She grew up singing in church and in her adult career has worked with various leading gospel artists, including Hezekiah Walker and Daryl Coley. Lucinda describes the sound of her current project as “traditional praise and worship.” In that vein she includes her rendition of the standard hymn, “Old Rugged Cross.” Asked about the inclusion of the hymn, she remarks that she made a vow to always include at least one hymn on each one of her albums. Lucinda’s debut also includes a duet with one of her gospel music idols, Daryl Coley, on “Already Done.” Lucinda also includes her version of the gospel classic “Safe in His Arms.” She explains that “Safe in His Arms” is one of her favorite gospel songs and that she began singing it nearly seven years ago. She further says, “If you’re going to redo a song, do it different, but keep it in the same ballpark!”

The songs included on Lucinda’s debut CD are deeply personal. She insists that “If you have not gone through it, you cannot tell the story.” To make her point, she explains that songs like “Pressure to Praise” represent mantras that she has chosen to live her life by. She further explains that the process of writing the songs is a form of catharsis for her—“Instead of getting depressed, I write songs.” She is quick to acknowledge, however, that she receives the music and words from the Spirit, so she makes every effort to remain spiritually grounded through fasting and praying.

Lucinda Moore is a mature album that reflects Moore’s many years of experience and will definitely satisfy the listener, who will hear the spiritual grounding of a vocally anointed singer and songwriter.

Note: Based on a November 2006 telephone interview with Lucinda Moore.

Posted by fredara mareva



View review December 1st, 2006


TAPS.gifTitle: Return
Artist: The Anointed Pace Sisters
Label: Tyscot
Catalog no.: TYSD-4154-2
Date: 2006

The Anointed Pace Sisters (TAPS) mark their re-entry into contemporary gospel music with their latest project, Return. It has been ten years since the sisters have released a commercial album as a group. When asked about their long hiatus from the gospel music scene, Lydia explains that they had to wait for God’s timing and could not simply create the album when and how they wanted to complete it.

TAPS is one of the most celebrated sister-singing groups in gospel music. They were trained in ministry and song in their father, Murphy Pace’s Atlanta church. Singing has always been a family venture. From an early age, the family would rent a fifteen passenger van to transport the nine Pace sisters, parents, and brother to singing engagements as far away as New York. Through those tough years, the sisters of TAPS have persevered and refined their collective and individual callings. Consequently, over the last decade TAPS has gained film experience through the movie Fighting Temptations starring Beyoncé Knowles and Cuba Gooding, Jr., as well as commercial music experience. Individually, some of the sisters have become pastors and ministers while others are renowned worship leaders. However, it is the ministry through music that bonds the sisters of TAPS.

TAPS’ latest release, Return, is a collection of praise, worship, and inspirational songs that were recorded live in Atlanta. The project features several songs that were written by the sisters including “Contentment” written by Latrice Pace Speights, “Reign Forever” by Melonda A. Pace, and “The Words U Said” by Phyllis Y. Pace and others. “He’s Here” is a worship reunion that features former TAPS member and current solo gospel artist, LaShun Pace. As a bonus, the last song on the album is a Terrance Parker house remix of their first single, “High Praise.”

The sisters describe the sound of this project as a mixture of contemporary and gospel influences. They intimate that their multi-generational sound is a reflection of the three generations represented in the group. But the sisters are united in their view of the purpose of making gospel music. They all know that God and the gospel of Christ is the most important message of their music and they enjoy using song to encourage others.

According to Duranice, Melonda, and Lydia Pace the recording of Return was a long process that required their full reliance on God. In their mind the story of TAPS is the story of sisters who are called to do ministry through music. Paramount to any level of success is their commitment to their ministry. That covenant along with their bond as biological sisters keeps them grounded and dedicated to bringing out the best in each other—without any jealousy. The sisters credit their mother’s reminder to respect each other and “stay in your own lane.”

Return represents the time-tested music and ministry of sisters who have grown up in gospel music. When a listener experiences Return, they are hearing the various testimonies of women who have persevered to deliver a message that is encouraging and uplifting. This project marks the return of some of gospel music’s most gifted voices, the return of family-centered music, and the return of The Anointed Pace Sisters rendering the music that they were born to create.

Note: Based on a November 2006 telephone conversation with Lydia, Duranice, and Melonda of the The Anointed Pace Sisters.

Posted by fredara mareva

View review December 1st, 2006

Tyscot Celebrates 30th Anniversary

leonard scott.gifIn 2006, Tyscot Records celebrated its 30th anniversary of producing and developing gospel music talent. Founded in 1976 by Dr. Leonard Scott and L. Craig Tyson in Indianapolis, Indiana, Tyscot was originally established to record the Christ Church Apostolic Radio Choir, led by Bishop James Tyson, Craig’s father. Before long, Tyscot was issuing recordings for other local groups, including Robert Turner & the Silver Hearts and The Pentecostal Ambassadors, and the label was officially launched.

Tysot made an indelible impact on gospel music in the 1980s and ’90s through artists such as Derrick Brinkley and John P. Kee & the New Life Community Choir, who earned the first gold album for the label. More recently, Tyscot has released recordings for the Rance Allen Group, the contemporary gospel singer Deitrick Haddon, the legendary Annointed Pace Sisters, and the much-heralded newcomer Lucinda Moore. Leonard Scott, who serves as Bishop of the Rock Community Church (run out of the Tyscot offices), also found time to record a new CD in 2006, Hymns and Church Songs: Live From Alabama.

Today, the company is regarded by many as the longest surviving independent gospel label. Though some larger companies have expressed an interest in the label, Tyscot remains a family run operation, presided over by Dr. Leonard Scott, President and Chairman of the Board, with son, Bryant Scott, serving as President and CEO. Under their leadership, Tyscot continues its mission of discovering and developing new gospel talent and providing worldwide exposure.

Congratulations to Dr. Scott and the Tyscot family on their 30 continuous years of building a venerable gospel music legacy!




View review December 1st, 2006

The Twelve Classic Gospel Songs of Christmas

gospel1.bmpLooking for an alternative from the standard Yule music fare? Try these twelve classic gospel songs on for size. Use your favorite search engine to find reissue CDs, or maybe even the original vinyl, on which these songs can be found.

1. “Glory, Glory to the New Born King” – Angelic Gospel Singers (Gotham, 1950)

Philadelphia’s Angelic Gospel Singers, featuring Margaret Allison, hit it big in 1949 on their very first 78 rpm single, “Touch Me, Lord Jesus.” Riding high on their newfound popularity, they recorded the Christmas song “Glory, Glory to the New Born King” for Gotham the following year. Horace Clarence Boyer notes that the song became as popular in the African American community as “White Christmas” did in the white community. Even today, a gospel Christmas compilation without someone singing “Glory, Glory to the New Born King” is simply incomplete.

2. “O Holy Night” – Marion Williams (Savoy, 1959)

The legendary gospel soprano Marion Williams moved the Ward Singers up a little higher before stepping out on her own in 1958 to fashion the Stars of Faith from fellow members of the Wards aggregation. One year later, Marion and the Stars of Faith waxed a Christmas album for Savoy Records. On the album, Marion performs “O Holy Night” as a solo. While the entire song is a masterpiece, its finest moment comes at the composition’s emotional apex, when Marion launches one of her signature high-whoos, like a sonic rocket, heavenward.

3. “Christmas Morn” – Charles Watkins (Savoy, 1951)

Before Charles Watkins became a Bishop, he was a gospel crooner, one of the smoothest male vocalists to ever grace the genre. His 1963 “Heartaches” was a gospel hit that would be covered by many artists, but 12 years prior, he recorded “Christmas Morn” for Savoy. “Christmas Morn” remains an obscure title, but that is unfortunate: the melody is every bit as unforgettable as Nat Cole’s take on Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song.” Forget global warming: the polar ice cap began to melt when Watkins falsettoed “Merry Christmas to you” in the song’s final bars.

4. “Pretty Little Baby” – James Cleveland and the Cleveland Singers (Savoy, 1968)

A Christmas spiritual, sung slowly and with much gravity and passion by “King” James Cleveland, whose coarse, pious voice always seemed one beat away from a full-out sob. The Cleveland Singers increase and decrease in intensity in all the right places, making this one of Cleveland’s most perfect recordings. Given Cleveland’s prolific recording career spanning four decades, that says a lot.

5. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – Pilgrim Travelers (Specialty, 1952)

The Pilgrim Travelers were one of the finest a cappella gospel quartets of the Golden Era. They lent their voices to this popular Christmas song, which was as relevant during the Korean War as it was a decade earlier when sung about World War II soldiers missing loved ones during the holidays. The Travelers’ version, however, doesn’t seem nearly as optimistic about soldiers returning as did Bing Crosby’s 1943 classic, but instead seems to stoop under the weight and weariness of continued conflict. The steel guitar flourishes at the end, added presumably to brighten the arrangement, only thicken the fog of loneliness and despair.

6. “When Was Jesus Born” – Patterson Singers (United Artists, 1968)

The Patterson Singers were no strangers to Christmas songs, having performed a few for a special Christmas album produced in 1963 by Vee Jay Records. This recording, however, finds them across the ocean, in concert in Frankfort, West Germany, shouting this timeless spiritual at elite runner pace. The Pattersons’ rhythmic stutter during the litany of months at the composition’s center drives the audience into an understandable frenzy.

7. “White Christmas” – Vocalaires of Newport News, VA (Pinewood, early 1970s)

The Vocalaires male quartet, like the Ravens and Drifters before them, turn Bing Crosby’s zillion seller into a rousing, fun doo-wop. While the Ravens’ and Drifters’ recordings remain fairly faithful to the original, the Vocalaires sing the lyrics to a standard 50s doo-wop song structure, resplendent with playful booming bass lines and high harmonies. A tough-to-find recording, but well worth the search.

8a. “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” – Wings over Jordan Choir (RCA Victor, 1948) &
8b. “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” – Rev. Cleophus Robinson (Peacock, 1967)

Men and women of all races and creeds who grew up in the 1940s recall fondly the Wings over Jordan Sunday radio program, where they heard some of the most moving spiritual singing on the planet. Who better, then, to render Robert MacGimsey’s neo-spiritual than Rev. Glenn Settles’ Wings over Jordan? The Cleveland-based chorus sings the composition like a teary lullaby, with lovingly hushed harmonies.

Rev. Cleophus Robinson’s take on the composition two decades later, however, eschews the supplicant quietude and aims straight for the theme’s parallel to the plight of African Americans in the 1960s. Robinson’s gravitas on the line, “The world treat you mean, Lord/Treat me that way, too,” will raise the hair on the back of your neck.

9. “Jesus Christ, the Baby” – Six Trumpets feat. Maggie Ingram (Nashboro, 1961)

This Christmas gospel favorite introduced the sweet, girl-group soprano of Maggie Ingram. The Six Trumpets male quartet supporting Ingram chant “baby” (as in Jesus) in the background, though it sounds for all the world as if they are chanting “Maggie.” Ingram went on to form a successful family group called the Ingramettes, but she never again replicated the charmingly graceful performance of her debut.

10. “Follow the Star” – Edwin Hawkins, feat. Richard Smallwood (Birthright, 1985)

Richard Smallwood wrote “Follow the Star” and accompanied the Hawkins Family on their performance of it for their much sought-after 1985 Christmas album. “Follow the Star” features a chorus of beautiful, tight harmonies, crisp and invigorating as a starry winter night. A master of the expansive, emotional finish, Smallwood writes a real heart-wrenching coda for “Follow the Star.” It alone is guaranteed to elicit sighs of wonder and soul satisfaction.

11. “Joy to the World” – Stars of Black Nativity (Vee Jay, 1962)

Alex Bradford and the Bradford Singers, Marion Williams and the Stars of Faith, and Princess Stewart served as the original cast for Langston Hughes’ captivating interpretation of the Nativity. Like the Christmas Star, Black Nativity would be witnessed and marveled at the world over. “Joy to the World” was performed for the stage production and original soundtrack by Professor Bradford and his Singers. It was a stroke of genius: the group’s over-the-top effervescence was perfect for this musical explosion of exaltation.

12. “Silent Night” – Mahalia Jackson (Apollo, 1950)

Franz Gruber and Josef Mohr wrote this Christmas chestnut in 1818, but when Mahalia Jackson wrapped her gospel tonsils around it 132 years later, you’d swear the two Germans wrote the song expressly for her. Millions upon millions have crooned this carol, but few with the straightforward, heartwarming religious intensity of ‘Halie.

Title: The Twelve Classic Gospel Songs of Christmas
Author: Bob Marovich
Photo: Sheet music from collection of Bob Marovich
Direct e-mail:
Media Inquiries: 773/576-2378 – cell phone
Copyright: © 2006 by Robert Marovich
Blog Address:
Word Count: 1,127
Categories: Gospel music, Christmas music

View review December 1st, 2006

Hurricane Katrina Benefit CDs

Immediately following Hurricane Katrina, musicians came forward to assist with relief efforts. The benefit CDs started flowing even before the water began receding. A nice summary has been posted on the New Orleans Music Store website of CDs from which at least a portion of the proceeds are directed towards various relief agencies. The site even specifies which agencies are the beneficiaries. What a great way to give a gift of music for the holidays while also supporting our brothers and sisters in New Orleans and other areas affected by Katrina. Here are a few of the 2006 releases that we think will be of most interest to our readers.

katrina whats going.jpegTitle: What’s Going On
Artist: Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Label: Shout! Factory
Catalog No.: 826663-10178
Release Date: August 2006
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s What’s Going On features newly arranged songs from Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album of the same title, released after the civil rights movement and hailed as one of the most important social commentary albums of all time. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band joins forces with Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Bettye LaVette, G. Love, and Guru, along with fellow New Orleans native, Ivan Neville, to put a fresh but still darkly brooding spin on Gaye’s classic. Songs such as “What’s Happening Brother,” “Save the Children,” “Mercy Mercy Me,” and “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” couldn’t be more appropriate to reflect the aftermath of Katrina, the lyrics expressing a frustration that is as viseral today as it was in Gaye’s time. One should note that there are no bonus tracks, so the running time is approximately the same as the original album—about 40 minutes. A portion of the proceeds go to the Tipitina’s Foundation.Katrina big apple.jpgTitle: From the Big Apple to the Big Easy: The Concert for New Orleans
Artist: Various
Label: Rhino/WEA
Catalog No.: 9716412
Date: August 2006
If you weren’t able to attend this September 2005 benefit concert at Madison Square Garden, then make sure someone stuffs this new 2-DVD set in your stocking. The concert features incredible performances by Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Buckwheat Zydeco, Lenny Kravitz, Clarence “Frogman” Henry (singing his 1956 hit “Ain’t Got No Home”), the Rebirth Brass Band, Kermit Ruffins, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Neville Brothers, and the Meters—not to mention Jimmy Buffet, John Fogarty, Simon & Garfunkel, and Elvis Costello. Even former President Bill Clinton makes an appearance (the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund is one of the beneficiaries). All net proceeds go to Hurricane Katrina relief.katrina Fats.jpgTitle: Alive and Kickin’
Artist: Fats Domino
Label: N/A
Catalog No.: N/A
Release Date: March 2006
One of New Orleans’ most famous residents, Fats Domino was rendered homeless by Katrina. After having been plucked off the roof of his Lower 9th Ward home by a Coast Guard helicopter, he spent several months in shelters and other temporary housing, before returning to New Orleans to rebuild. Alive and Kickin’ is his first album since 1993, compiled primarily from tracks recorded over the past decade. Domino, who was looking for a way to help rebuild the New Orleans music community, donated the CD to the Tipitina’s Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to music education, music business development, and preserving Louisiana’s unique musical cultures. Alive and Kickin’ is only available online and can be obtained by making a donation to the foundation.
katrina broken pieces.jpgTitle: On Broken Pieces: A Hurricane Relief Project
Artist: Williams Brothers, Bishop Paul S. Morton
Label: Blackberry Records
Catalog No.: 1654
Release Date: April 2006
Bishop Paul Morton, a native of New Orleans, has gathered together some of the gospel industry’s greatest artists to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina. Officially prefaced “The Williams Brothers Present Bishop Paul Morton,” the compilation also features appearances by the Mississippi Mass Choir, Kenton Rogers, Neal Roberson, the Bolton Brothers, and even soul singer Betty Wright. The title song, “On Broken Pieces,” deals directly with the tragedies in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and was intended to offer hope and inspiration. All profits will be donated to hurricane relief efforts (specific charities are not mentioned). Katrina NO will rise again.jpgTitle: New Orleans Will Rise Again
Artist: Various
Label: Night Train International
Catalog No.: NTI CD 7152
Release Date: April 2006
If you’re looking for rarities, then check out this reissue compilation from the Tuff City group. Subtitled “Songs of Faith, Hope and New Orleans-ness,” the selections range from deep funk to New Orleans-style R&B. Only a few of the artists, such as Aaron Neville, will be recognizable to all but the most serious collectors of N.O. music. Selections which best illustrate the theme of the album include “Black Blood in the Mississippi Mud” by Black Blood & the Chocolate Pickles, “There’s a Storm in the Gulf” by James Black & Sister Mary, “Searchin’ for the High Road,” by Bobby Jay, “(Crying for a) Helping Hand,” by George Perkins, and “Basin Street Ain’t Basin Street No More,” by Snookum Russell. All proceeds will be donated to the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic.
Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss  

View review December 1st, 2006

Welcome to the December issue

This month we’re featuring an extravaganza of recent gospel releases, including gospel-jazz, gospel quartets, contemporary gospel, traditional gospel, and everything in between. Also profiled is Indiana’s own gospel music label, Tyscot Records, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. Two of their latest releases are featured below. Finally, in keeping with the holiday spirit of giving, we’ve provided an overview of five Hurricane Katrina benefit CDs/DVDs released in 2006, with proceeds directed towards relief efforts.

View review December 2nd, 2006

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